Planning ahead for an award ticket is by far the most important factor when trying to secure a booking.
Outside of unpredictable award releases there are really only two strategies you can count on – airlines releasing award availability at an exact time in advance and last minute availability opening up in the final few weeks.
If you are looking to fly in business or first class booking when it releases of course gives you the best chance of getting the dates you want.
We spend a lot of time acquiring points and there is nothing worse than not being able to find availability for a trip.
We will tell you how to navigate an award availability date and when is the best time to book.
Airline award release days
Here are the object releases of every airlines award availability as well as an additional releases.
|Airline||Days Prior||Additional Release||Best Time To Book|
|AA||331||42 Days Prior||At Release or Last Minute|
|Air New Zealand||350|
|Air Tahiti Nui||331|
|ANA||356||At Release or 14 Days Prior|
|Austrian||355||30 Days Prior||At Release or Last Minute|
|Cathay Pacific||360||14 Days Prior||At Release or Last Minute|
|EVA||355||14 Days Prior||At Release or Last Minute|
|JAL||360||14 Days Prior||At Release or Last Minute|
|Lufthansa||360||14 Days Prior||At Release or 14 Days Prior|
|Qantas – Partner Bookings||353+|
|Qantas – Elites||353|
|Qantas – Everyone||297|
|Royal Air Maroc||360|
|SWISS||339 X, 300 J|
|Turkish||355||At Release or 30 Days Prior|
As you notice most airlines release about 330 days in advance with a few having official additional releases. Now there are many different factors that go into the best way to book a flight on an airline and when partner awards are released but the above dates are assuming you are booking with the airline directly.
Best time to book an award ticket
So knowing when airlines release awards, is that always the best time to book?
If you know the dates you are planning to travel and have the points saved up your best bet is to book as far in advance as possible. This is especially true for trips to Japan on ANA or a first class ticket on Lufthansa to Frankfurt.
However, it’s not always realistic to plan that far in advance and many times you will be between a window of 3 – 6 months in advance for a booking.
One strategy that can be used is to wait on a last minute seat to open up in the final week before a flight is set to depart. You can sometimes count on this to open very desirable bookings like the trip on ANA or a First class flight but it’s hard to have peace of mind waiting for a last minute ticket.
Our strategy for booking award flights
The strategy we undertake when we don’t book at release and we don’t find availability is to find the next best option and place it on hold. Award tickets are often refundable so we want to make sure we have a booking while we wait for a availability to open up.
Then we place an alert on Seats.Aero, one of our most recommended travel tools, that will tell us when a better flight is open by SMS or Email.
This way we can count on having a backup flight and if a better one opens we can easily switch.
We’ve done this countless times and scored some great direct flights last minute like our trip from Newark to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines for only 45,000 points.
Summary & Takeaways
Having a strategy and planning around award release dates will give you the best chance of booking the flights you want.
Don’t think that just because you don’t see award availability that all is lost as seats can change often by the hour.
We recommend monitoring well in advance and constantly checking if a seat may open up. While you do though try to book an alternative and make sure the program you are using has the ability to cancel.